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Saturday, August 23, 2003

MLK's strategist.

Paul Berman writes about Bayard Rustin, the black labor activist who organized the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington — and whose homosexuality forced him into the background of the civil rights movement. Two intriguing aspects of Berman's article: He describes how the 1963 march inspired other "rights" movements that continue to grow today — including especially the movement for gay rights — and explores the strange fact that while the story of Rustin's homosexuality can now find a sympathetic hearing, his socialism and labor activism cannot.

Today it can be said with only slight exaggeration that homosexuality has become a perfectly proper topic for public conversation, even with schoolchildren, while the very concept of a redistribution of wealth in America has somehow morphed into the great unmentionable.

Talk about ironies in the life of Bayard Rustin!

For even now, when the most painful of Rustin's secrets have come into the open, some last aspect of the March on Washington remains, in spite of everything, unremembered and undiscussed. It is the aspect that in 1963 went under the slogan "Jobs," which meant economic equality for all Americans — which is what people like Randolph and Rustin used to call, in an antique rhetoric that hardly anyone understands today, "socialism."

("Hidden sides, hushed ideals of a civil rights strategist," Paul Berman, New York Times 8.23.03, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 23 August 2003 at 9:40 AM

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